Driving Change in Higher Education.

Internships: How to land and keep one

By Michael Doyle

2012-13 MSCSA Treasurer

The internship. Where to begin, right? Whenever I start a project or task, I first answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how in as many ways as I can think of. Who will I work for? Who am I? What do I want to do? What are my career goals? When can I start? When am I available during the week to work? Where can I drive within my budget? Where are the companies that hire students from my program located? Why am I looking for an internship? Why am I going to get an internship? How will I grow at a specific company? How will I fit in? How will I find a company?

There are resources everywhere to help you find an internship. The best way to get one is through a referral – a friend, family member, coworker, or someone from school. There are also other services available, such as temp-agencies, your program advisor or career counselor, or even online social media sites. LinkedIn, Facebook, and job-seeking sites like indeed.com can also help you find companies that are looking for jobs. The mistake that most people make is that they don’t realize just how many people use those services in exactly the same way. It’s always your job to stand out from the crowd.

Contact the company that made a job posting, because more than likely, they need someone right now who can do the job. Job titles and descriptions overlap tremendously in the technical industry from my experience. In some cases, the education requirement the company is looking for is much less than they think. Don’t be afraid to contact them if you only have an associate’s degree when they’re requesting a PhD level of work – it never hurts, and practice makes perfect. Communication is key to getting and holding your job.

Attitude is everything. It’s a calm attitude that gets us through those stressful situations, like job interviews. It’s a positive attitude that turns our “nots” into “can-dos.” It’s a respectful attitude that sets you apart from the rest of us. And above all, it’s an objective, critical, or non-biased attitude that makes you stand out – those who aren’t afraid to ask a question, call someone out, or constructively criticize themselves as well as their coworkers and manager.

Treat internships just like any other job – the human resources line item of a business’ budget is usually the greatest, and the cost of hiring someone is not cheap. Show that you have an understanding of how businesses work as well as what your cost and worth would be to the company. Tell them what you would like to get out of the internship, or what is in it for you, and what your strengths are in a cover letter or job interview. Explain your situation and objective to getting the internship, and show them your hunger to exceed their expectations and help their business grow.

If you’ve already got an internship or job and want to improve yourself, then I would like to make a few personal recommendations that I try to bring everywhere and every day I work. Create and maintain a to-do list. I use ToDoist.com to keep track of projects and repeating tasks. They’ve got apps for almost every device and major software, like Outlook, Android, iPhone etc. Take it a step further and create a standard operating procedure document that lists what you do, and how to do it – step by step, to get a grasp on what you’re doing, how to improve your process, and to reduce costs of training someone else to do it. Clean and organize your desk by the end of the day, and once you get in that habit, keep it clean and clutter free throughout the day. A messy environment results in a distracted mind no matter how focused you are. Once everything is clean and organized, it’s much easier to get things done in that space. Give yourself reminders of your purpose at your workplace – is it just a paycheck, or is it for the family? Put a picture of your family at your desk, or if you’re really that greedy, put a picture of your paycheck on your desk. Last but not least, bring positivity to your workplace, because attitude is everything, even contagious.

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